North Coast Biochar is Now Available!

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized, USBI Conference 2012

The Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc. (RFFI), a non-profit organization that owns and manages the FSC Certified Usal Forest on the Lost Coast of northern California, is now producing high-carbon, low-ash biochar from surplus tan oak culled during forest restoration activities.  Production started on June 1, and this high-quality soil amendment is being marketed under the name North Coast Biochar.

Sold in 1 or 1.5 cubic yard totes, this product is made using a Biochar Solutions pyrolysis unit that is specifically designed to make biochar at the middle heat range of 500 to 700 degrees C which is considered an ideal temperature range to maximize biochar’s adsorptive qualities.  By purchasing this product you will be helping to support three non-profit organizations (RFFI, Sonoma Biochar Initiative, & Sonoma Ecology Center) working to promote sustainable agriculture and forestry practices. For more information, call Raymond Baltar at 707 291-3240.

Piercy Plant5270

 

Biochar-Enhanced Chicken Manure Pellets Now Available

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized, USBI Conference 2012

In collaboration with Weber Family Farms in Petaluma, The Sonoma Biochar Initiative and Sonoma Ecology Center are now offering buckets of biochar-enhanced chicken manure pellets as thank-you gifts for donations during a special fundraising campaign.  The chicken manure is an OMRI-listed organic manure that is high in nitrogen and blended with biochar made from locally-sourced woody biomass.

Pellets small

This fantastic soil amendment has been pelletized for easy application and can be used anywhere in your garden. Two sizes are available:  5-gallon and 2-gallon buckets. We are asking for a suggested donation of $30 for the 5-gallon size, and $20 for the 2-gallon size. This special blend is available for pickup on Saturday mornings at the Sonoma Garden Park Fam Market, from 9 A.M. to 12:30 P.M., 19996 7th St E, Sonoma, CA 95476, or by special arrangement at Sonoma Ecology Center offices in the Sonoma Developmental Center.

We want to thank Mike Weber of Weber Family Farms for his generous donation of goods and services in support of this fundraiser.

For more information call Raymond Baltar at:  707 291-3240

USBI 2016 Biochar Conference: Save the Date Aug. 22nd – 25th

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized, USBI Conference 2012

The Synergy of Science and Industry:  Biochar’s Connection to Ecology, Soil, Food and Energy

Registration is now open for what is sure to be a fantastic gathering of scientists, entrepreneurs, farmers, enlightened government officials, energy, soil, and fire geeks, agricultural change agents, NGO’s devoted to sustainable practices and carbon sequestration, backyard biochar tinkerer’s, and folks just interested what all the fuss about biochar is about.

 

Located at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center in beautiful Corvallis, Oregon, it is sure to be the biochar event of the year in the U.S.

Go to:  http://usbi2016.org/   for more information.

 

Sonoma County Biochar Project Workshop and Demonstration

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized, USBI Conference 2012

The Sonoma County Biochar Project Presents:

Biochar Soil Management and Pasture Benefits

A Workshop and Demonstration

Date:  July 25th, 2015  /  Time: 10am to 2pm

At  Swallow Valley Farm, 1100 Freestone Valley Ford Rd. Valley Ford, CA  94972

For more information, click here.

SBI Selected to Submit a Full CalFire Project Application

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI)recently received a formal invitation from CalFire to submit a full grant application to expand our Conservation Burn Training Program statewide. CalFire received 381 Concept Proposals, totaling over $135 million, from various entities and landowners throughout the state under California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds Grant Programs, and only a limited number of these received an invitation to submit a full proposal by April 30th. Unfortunately, only $21 million is available for funding for the fiscal year 2014/2015 and not all proposals will be successful. However, we strongly believe the conservation burn training program has so many merits as a greenhouse gas reduction strategy and co-benefits to the ecosystem with the resulting production of biochar that we feel our proposal stands a good chance of being funded.

SBI has also been working to advocate at the state level for large-scale, high-profile biochar field trials. We hope to start working soon with California Food and Agriculture Director Karen Ross’ office to coordinate a stakeholder meeting (including representatives from the academic, technology, agriculture, business, policy, energy, and biochar advocacy sectors) to come up with a roadmap to bring these essential field trials to fruition.

Impressions from the US Biochar Symposium

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News

Several things really made an impression on me when I attended the US Biochar Symposium last October at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The first was the plenary speech by Dr. Johannes Lehmann, considered by many as the scientific “godfather” of the modern biochar movement. The eminent soil scientist from Cornell University emphasized one central theme throughout the talk: all biochar is not the same—in fact we should be using the plural term biochars when talking about it since no two biochars, made in different processes, at different temperatures, from different feedstocks, will have the same characteristics.

Dr. Lehmann cautioned those of us looking to commercialize biochar to be rigorous in providing a consistent product that will produce consistent results, and that consumers can trust. Most of us who have been in the biochar world for awhile have certainly heard of and seen many types of biochar, exhibiting many different characteristics. Biochar made as a byproduct from large gasifiers primarily producing energy, for example, can have a very different structure and ph level than that made from smaller continuous-feed or batch systems that are designed primarily to produce biochar.

So sourcing biochars from different producers may have markedly different results in similar soils. Since there have been positive, neutral, and even negative results using biochar in field trials much research still needs to be done—especially identifying which feedstocks, heated at which temperatures, will produce the optimal results in a given soil type, with which plants.

This work is underway all over the world, and we conducted our own Citizen Science experiment right here in Sonoma County this year. The results of this experiment using local gardeners willing to take part in a backyard field trial will be published early next year. SBI was also recently awarded a USDA Conservation Innovation grant that will allow us to produce large amounts of biochar locally and test it at three local farms: Green String, Oak Hill, and Swallow Valley.

Biochar mixed with compost makes a rich soil amendment beneficial for your garden.

Biochar mixed with compost makes a rich soil amendment beneficial for your garden.

My second big takeaway from the conference came at a virtual presentation given by Hans-Peter Schmidt titled “Novel Uses of Biochar”. Mr. Schmidt founded the Ithaka Institute for Carbon Cycling & Winegrowing in Switzerland and for 7 years has been adding biochar to vineyards and introducing it in other agricultural settings as well. The description of his talk at the conference explains what he calls the importance of integrating the “cascading use” of biochar in the farm workflow, and even in industial systems:

“In addition to the use of biochar as a soil amendment, there are an increasing number of ways to incorporate biochar into different eco- and industrial systems. Thus feeding biochar to livestock has numerous benefits not only for the animals, but it also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improves nutrient retention in animal manure. The use of biochar in building materials is just beginning to be studied but shows promise in the ability to insulate, decontaminate air, and provide odor and humidity control. Biochar as pillow filling to induce perfectly reposing sleep is just another way to benefit from biochar’s multiple qualities. There are more than 55 uses of biochar that can all be combined in cascades. All of these uses have in common that the biochar gets slowly charged with nutrients, gets oxidized and can finally be recycled as a soil conditioner.”

Much more information on the many, many ways to use biochar(s) before finally putting it in the ground is available here. Click on Ithaka Journal and scroll down to the section titled “55 Uses of Biochar”.

Lastly, I was particularly impressed by the work done by NASA scientist Doris Hamill in producing a high school curriculum on biochar. If you are interested in teaching a science segment with some positive content about using biochar as a strategy to help mitigate climate change and promote sustainable agriculture, she has done an amazing job of preparing everything you will need. It is open source, free, and available here.

Raymond Baltar

2013 North American Biochar Symposium

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Initiative News, Member News

If you’re interested in the current state of biochar research and state-of-the-art production technology, the place to be October 13th through 16th is Amherst, Massachusetts where biochar scientists, academics, technologists and entrepreneurs from around the world will gather and exchange ideas. The Symposium website is: http://symposium2013.pvbiochar.org/. Check it out!

June 12 Community Meeting Speakers

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News

We have just confirmed two keynote speakers for our next Community Meeting on June 12th at the Sonoma Grange.

First, Judith Harwood of the Mendocino Woody Biomass Working Group will be filling us in on their exciting activities and plans for a biochar production facility to be used for sustainable forestry management. Our second speaker will be Jason Aramburu of the re:char organization, a youthful and dynamic company that designs and builds cleaner, more efficient, biochar-producing cook stoves for villages in Africa and elsewhere, and also sells a biochar bagged product called Black Revolution. More information will follow but we wanted to let you know right away about this wonderful opportunity to learn about people creating positive changes in the world. Mark your calendars now!


Black-Revolution-Re-char_sm

USDA Conservation Innovation Grant Application Goes to Second Phase

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Technology, Initiative News

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative received word on Friday that our California GIG grant application to fund the development and study of a farm-scale biochar operation has made the cut to stage two, and a full 30-page proposal has been requested. This grant, with matching funds provided by the Sonoma County Water Agency, would allow for the purchase of a steel retort from New England Biochar, to be located at Swallow Valley Farm in western Sonoma County, and 18 months of biochar field trials at Swallow Valley Farm, Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen, and Green String Farm in Petaluma.

The grant would study the economic feasibility of a small-scale biochar operation, using feedstock primarily from the farm, and provide enough biochar for the field trials and some income for the farm as well. The field trials would focus on biochar’s effectiveness in increasing soil carbon, decreasing water needs over time, and increasing production.  Heat produced from the unit would be captured and utilized in the farm’s cheese-making facility.

SBI is competing with 16 other grant proposals from around the state vying for $375,000 in funds.

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Lambing Season at Swallow Valley Farm

 

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